A Critique of Vanishing Voice in Noncooperative Spaces: The Perspective of an Aspirant Black Female Intellectual Activist

Journal of Business Ethics 183 (1):15-29 (2022)
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Abstract

We adopt and extend the concept of ‘noncooperative space’ to analyze how (aspirant) black women intellectual activists attempt to sustain their efforts within settings that publicly endorse racial equality, while, in practice, the contexts remain deeply racist. Noncooperative spaces reflect institutional, organizational, and social environments portrayed by powerful white agents as conducive to anti-racism work and promoting racial equality but, indeed, constrain individuals who challenge racism. Our work, which is grounded in intersectionality, draws on an autoethnographic account of racially motivated domestic violence suffered by our lead author. Our analysis suggests that (aspirant) black women intellectual activists must develop courage to sustain their ‘voice’ within noncooperative spaces. However, the three interlinked dimensions of noncooperative spaces—namely, deceiving design, hegemonic actors’ indifference to racism, and (some assimilated gatekeepers’) false equivalence—may gradually erode a black female scholar’s courage. This forces her ‘voice’ to vanish temporarily, or even permanently. Courage is thus fragile and depletable. Yet, courage can be regenerated, resulting in regaining voice. Consequently, we propose courageous collective action by white allies and black and brown individuals who voluntarily and officially cooperate within and across various spaces to achieve racial equality.

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